Government Construction Bids 101: What You Need to Know

In the competitive world of construction, winning federal government contracts can significantly boost your business. Opportunities to work on government projects can offer stability and growth potential for a firm, but bidding on them can be a confusing experience without a knowledgeable, strategic approach. This guide will walk you through the essential steps involved in successful government construction bid, helping you unlock new avenues of income for your operation.

How Government Construction Contracts Work

Man reviewing contracts on his computerIn general, government contracts are bound by strict regulations to ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability. This often involves extensive documentation, rigorous compliance with laws and standards, and detailed project specifications.

The procurement process typically begins with a government agency issuing a solicitation or request for proposal (RFP), which outlines the requirements, evaluation criteria, and submission deadlines for a given project.

To participate in the bidding process, firms must closely adhere to the instructions in the RFP. This includes preparing comprehensive proposals that demonstrate their ability to meet the project’s demands, offering competitive pricing, and showcasing relevant experience and qualifications.

There are different project delivery methods for construction contracts, but the most common is “Design-Bid- Build“. This is a method of delivery in which an agency first works with an engineer or architect to create a set of blueprints that will comprise the bid. The prime contractor will then view these drawings in the RFP and consult with various subcontractors (plumbing, electrical, etc.) to develop an idea of the full cost of the project before making an offer. If the offer is accepted by the agency, the prime contractor and subcontractors can begin working on the project in earnest.

Typically, the winner of a government construction project is the lowest responsive bidder. This describes the bidder who is not only “responsive”–meaning they have met all the legal conditions and specifications of the project–but also came in with the lowest price. In short, they have the skills, ability, and finances to complete the project and will also save taxpayers the most money.


How to Get Government Construction Contracts

Contracting officer going over contract clauses while at a construction site.Securing a government construction contract involves several critical steps. Here’s how you can position your firm for success:


Before bidding on a government construction contract, businesses often need to undergo a prequalification process. This ensures that only capable and reliable firms are considered for the project.

While prequalification can generally involve submitting detailed information about your company’s financial stability, technical expertise, and past project performance, there are also specific qualifications your business must have in order to even submit a bid. These can include:

Pre-Bid Conference

Pre-bid conferences (or site visits) are organized by the contracting agency to provide potential bidders with an opportunity to ask questions and clarify project details. Attending these meetings is vital, as they offer insights that can significantly influence your proposal.

During these conferences, pay attention to the specifics shared by the agency, ask pertinent questions, and network with other attendees. This will help you tailor your bid to better align with the project’s needs.

In some cases, a pre-bid conference is mandatory for bidding on a government construction project. Agencies will collect contact information of the businesses who attended and exclusively send them important bidding documents later on. That’s why, as a rule of thumb, it’s always smart to attend pre-bid conferences whether they’re mandatory or not.

Government Building Contracts Programs

Many governments have special programs designed to provide small businesses as well as women, veteran, and minority-owned firms with a level playing field during the bidding process. If you qualify for any of these programs, it’s wise to take advantage of them as they can provide a competitive edge in the bidding process. You can view a full list of them on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, but here’s just a few currently available:

  • Small Business Enterprises (SBE)
  • Women Business Enterprises (WBE)
  • Small Disadvantage Businesses (SDB)
  • Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB)
  • Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB)
  • Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB)
  • Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB)

If you’re not sure whether your business qualifies for one of these categories, you can consult with your state government to find out.


Prevailing Wages

Government contracts often require adherence to prevailing wage laws, which mandate specific wage rates for workers on public projects. Understanding and complying with these wage requirements will help you avoid penalties and ensure your bid remains competitive.

On a federal level, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 requires contractors and subcontractors to be paid locally prevailing wages for federally funded or assisted construction projects.

State-level prevailing wage laws are also existent in Washington, D.C. and 26 states. While some refer to these laws as “Little Davis-Bacon Acts,” they are known locally by other names. Because the wage limits vary by state, it’s important to look up any prevailing wage laws where you live.

In general, it’s a good idea to include documentation of prevailing wage law compliance alongside accurate labor cost estimates in your bid.

Types of Construction Bonds

Construction bonds are essential components of government contracts, providing a guarantee that the project will be completed as agreed. There are three main types of construction bonds you should be familiar with:

Bid Bonds

Bid bonds assure the project owner that the bidder will honor their bid and execute the contract if awarded. If the bidder fails to do so, the bond provides financial compensation to the project owner. Typically, if a contractor submits a bid without a bid bond, it won’t even be considered.

Performance Bonds

A performance bond guarantees that the contractor will complete the project according to the terms and specifications outlined in the contract. If the contractor fails to deliver, the bond compensates the project owner for any losses incurred.

Payment Bonds

Payment bonds ensure that subcontractors, suppliers, and laborers are paid for their work on the project. In the event that a prime contractor defaults or files for bankruptcy, the project owner can use the money from the payment bond to pay anyone that contractor owes money to.

If you’re bidding on a project with the federal government, it will require both performance and payment bonds. If the contract you’re bidding on is with a state government, it’s recommended to check if that state requires any performance or payment bonds before submitting your bid.

Business-owners making a deal.


Bidding on government construction contracts can be a complex and competitive process, but with the right approach and preparation, your firm can secure valuable opportunities that can change the scope of your business. By understanding the requirements, leveraging available programs, and crafting compelling proposals, you can position yourself for success in the public sector.

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